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#CheckYourFacts

Use this guide to become a fact checker! Evaluate your sources and your facts!

Strategies for Evaluating Sources: Abbreviated P.R.O.V.E.N.

Use the P.R.O.V.E.N. Source Evaluation Process to help you determine whether the sources you find are credible and appropriate choices for your particular research purpose. The process of evaluating a source includes examining the source itself and examining other sources by:

  • Checking for previous work. Has someone already fact-checked this source?
  • Finding the original source. Who originally published the information and why?
  • Reading laterally. What do other people say about this publication and author?
  • Circling back. How can you revise your original search to yield better results?
  • Checking your own emotions. Is your own bias affecting your evaluation?1

The questions below will help you think critically during the source evaluation process:

  • Purpose: How and why the source was created. Why does this information exist, why is it in this form (book, article, website, etc.), and who is the intended audience? Is the purpose clear?
  • Relevance: The value of the source for your needs. How useful is this source in answering your question, supporting your argument, or adding to your knowledge? Is the type and content of the source appropriate for your assignment?
  • Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information. How thorough and balanced is this source? Does it present fact or opinion? How well do its creators acknowledge their point of view, represent other points of view fully, and critique them professionally?
  • Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information. How well do the creators of this source support their information with factual evidence, identify and cite their sources, and accurately represent information from other sources? Can you find the original source(s) of the information or verify facts in other sources? What do experts say about the topic?
  • Expertise: The authority of the authors and the source. Who created this source and what education and/or professional or personal experience makes them authorities on the topic? How was the source reviewed before publication? Do other experts cite this source or otherwise acknowledge the authority of its creators?
  • Newness: The age of the information. Does your topic require current information? How up-to-date is this source and the information within it? 

1Based on Caulfield, Mike. "Four Moves and a Habit." Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, 2017.

P.R.O.V.E.N. Source Evaluation by Ellen Carey (6/18/18) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Cognitive Biases That Affect Your Decisions

20 Cognitive Biases that Screw Up Your Decisions

From:  Lee, S., & Lebowitz, S. (2015, August 26). 20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions. Business Insider.

Comparing Sources

  Scholarly Trade/Professional Popular
Creator Experts (with experience or academic degrees) Subject-specific writers and professionals Journalists, anyone
Purpose Creating knowledge Sharing information Entertainment
Audience Scholars, students, and researchers Professionals and those interested in the field General public
Formats Journal articles and books are most common Trade journals, professional magazines, professional association websites Newspaper articles, other online articles and posts
Length and Content Longer and focus on very specific and narrow topics Short to mid length, middle-level specificity Short and general
Sources Provides sources formally with citations Sometimes sources are mentioned, but rarely are they formally cited Rarely are sources mentioned or cited formally
Pros Likely to be reliable and credible, very in-depth and detailed Tends to contain information about things affecting practicing professionals, not too complicated Can be more up-to-date about current events, can provide a brief overview
Cons Very detailed and specific, use technical jargon Doesn't contain original research or knowledge, not as in-depth Not as reliable, doesn't provide contextual information
Examples Strategic Management Journal, Information Systems Research Advertising Age, Bloomberg Businessweek Wired, Forbes

If you're ever unsure what type of source you have, Ask Us!